Up until two weeks ago I had never heard of Circassia. With the approaching Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia stories about Circassia have emerged. Dutch journalist, Jelle Brandt Corstius, presents a 6 episodes documentary about De Bergen achter Sotsji (The hills behind Sochi). This documentary shows six areas in the Caucasus region, located behind Sochi where the time seems to lay still with or without the Winter Olympic Games.
Circassians: A Great Nation. A Great History” is the motto of the “Shapsughia” Ensemble for the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The first episode aired two weeks ago. It was about Circassia and Circassian people. It was in 1863 when Russia deported hunderdthousands of Circassians after years of war in that region. Most Circassians landed in North of Turkey. From there they spreaded to Syria, Jordan, Germany, Libia, Irak. Until today there live approximately 5 million Circassians and their descents in Turkey. Nowadays they form one of the biggest minorities there.
In Wikipedia and many sites supported by Circassian diaspora this deportation is also described as an ethnic cleansing. Circassians require this to be officially acknowledged as a genocide. Such term, politics and military matters are inseparable when talking about Russia and the former Soviet Union with its states but I won’t go any further as my knowledge is quite limited.
What makes the documentary interesting is the human interest side. Brandt Corstius had worked for a couple of years as a correspondent in Moscow. He speaks Russian fluently. He engages easily in conversations with the people. He visited a refugee camp where descents of Circassians from Syria live. They fled Syria due to unstable situation there.
It is intriguing to see how the Circassian Syrians youngsters are struggling learning the language while their parents still speak it fluently. I see it as a struggle because there are two main languages, Kabardian and Adyghe. These languages are two of the oldest languages in the world. Kabardian alphabet has 72 letters! Within Kabardian an Adyghe there are a number of various dialects also. It seems fairly complicated to me.
This picture is taken from South China Morning Post.
Sochi is the place to be
Sochi is a favorite holiday destination for Soviet leaders. Stalin’s datcha (second home) is still standing there. Putin and Medvedev come to Sochi often for sea, sun and ski. For ordinary folk Sochi offers sanatoriums, wide boulevards and leisure.
Due to its comfortable climate, jobs and strategic location Sochi has always been a melting pot, filled with people from Chechnya, Dagestan, Abkhazia, Georgia, Armenia and Azeria.
Above all Sochi is actually a land of Circassia. The almost forgotten nation.